Thursday, January 31, 2013

PuSh 2013: I, Malvolio

I, Malvolio is the best kind of theatre. What does that mean?! Well, to me it means that it was funny, clever & entertaining and yet, while doing all of that, it also made me think. 

It made me think about myself as a spectator not just in theatre but in life. It made me think about how, as a society, we sit by and watch as others are ridiculed or teased or made fun. How sometimes we even join in innocently thinking we’re not doing any harm because it is all in good fun. But are we doing no harm?! Is it all only in good fun?! When the joking or the teasing is at the expense of someone else, is that really true?! This is why bullying is such a big issue today.

(Photo Courtesy PuSh Festival. Photographer: Bruce Dalzell Atherton)

So, as I watched and laughed, I also sat there in the audience thinking to myself that this would be the perfect play to bring teenage students too. Not only is the humour witty and clever but it also has a perfectly timed crassness as well. Tim Crouch at one point quite literally bends over revealing his bare arse through his torn one-piece underwear to the entire audiences. These jokes never get old. Especially not for teenagers (or for us adults but more on that later). Why do think Judd Apatow movies do so well?!

However, right after he reveals his arse to us and the whole audience is roaring with laughter, he turns around and asks us rather pointedly “So, you think that’s funny?!” and proceeds to berate us for laughing at his expense. He does this many times and by doing so effectively makes us, the audience, look inwards at ourselves. Why are we laughing at him?! Is it funny to laugh at Malvolio, a man believed to have gone mad, because of his love for another?! A man who has been tricked into believing that the fair Olivia is in love with him?!

Don’t you think this might sound a little familiar to a high school crowd?! This is a very general example but the story might go something like this:

The nerdy, shy quiet boy is made fun of for being himself. He acts out as a result and then he gets attacked further. The bullying boys think it's funny to play a prank on him and tell him that the pretty popular girl likes him. The nerdy, shy quiet boy finds out the truth, that it's all just a joke and he is crushed.

This is why Shakespeare transcends time. And, this is the brilliance of I, Malvolio. It is a play written for young audiences inspired by Shakespeare so not only is it creating an understanding and love for Shakespeare in kids and teenagers but it is also providing a forum to talk about issues like bullying without beating them over the head with an issue-driven play.

This doesn’t mean it doesn’t resonate with adult audiences. I would imagine that anyone walking out of last nights opening night performance would be able to say that they laughed a lot, that at times they probably felt a little uncomfortable and that Tim Crouch is a fantastic performer.

(Photo Courtesy PuSh Festival. Photographer: Bruce Dalzell Atherton)

To drive home this question of madness - is it Malvolio or is it really us – Tim Crouch begins the play in this wild “Turkey Cock” costume that underlines his craziness. Then as the play goes on – and he begins to bring into question the sanity of the world around him and us the audience – he slowly puts on a “normal” costume, one you might see Malvolio wear at the start of any production of Twelfth Night. The design by Graeme Gilmour is in this way both simple yet highly effective. The best kind of design. It tells us so much with so little. The choices were clearly there - the yellow stockings for example – but each choice simply made to effectively tell the story that Tim Crouch has so brilliantly written.

This is not just a play for young audiences it is a play for all audiences. It is a play that makes us question our own actions and motives and it does so with laughter. The best kind of theatre.

I, Malvolio is presented by The Cultch and The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and is playing in the Historic Theatre until February 10th. You can purchase your tickets at The Cultch website. It will be 60 minutes of your life well spent.

 ~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

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